The Pilot's Blog

Philanthropy at The Roasterie

Fazenda Lagoa

Brazilian coffee farm Fazenda Lagoa

Danny O’Neil’s interest in philanthropy started early. As a kid in Iowa, he knocked on doors to sell everything from magazines to pizza dough mix to raise money for his school. Fast forward several decades to founding The Roasterie and his interest in giving back had turned into a passion that burns as bright as his love of sharing the world’s best coffees with his customers.

Over the years Danny realized that the two concepts—helping others and providing an excellent service or good—are not mutually exclusive. In terms of business practices, excellence wielded deftly can sustain and grow much more support than a good cause on its own. In practical terms, Danny wanted to make sure that it’s as easy as possible to do the right thing.

Here’s just one example. After a Herculean effort to find the greatest coffees in Brazil, Danny finally found ‘the one.’ While it was, undoubtedly in Danny’s opinion, the best Brazilian coffee, the price was simply beyond his price range. So he put his instincts for giving back to work. He asked the community about its needs; how could he help make a difference? “Daycare,” they said.

For an extra $.15 per pound, the coffee went from being a high-cost commodity to an investment with a tangible, smiling return. He was investing in humans. Before long about 60 children were enjoying their new day-care facility.

Call it serendipity, divine providence or just the immutable law of unintended consequences, but at the time there was a shortage of coffee pickers in that particular region. Now that someone in the village could provide care, education and a watchful eye over children, a number of women were now available to help pick coffee. They suddenly transformed their finances into a double-income household.

Not only does The Roasterie get a fantastic coffee, but the communities from which those coffees originate are teeming with benefits wrought from a touch of foresight.

Before long coffee buyers and producers started following Danny’s example. When workers feel fondness and gratitude—however minute or overwhelming—the quality of work improves. And not only had the quality of life improved, but the care for the product improved also. Eventually coffee companies from Italy, Germany and Japan started following Danny’s example in the areas they sourced from.

Soon a kitchen, showers and computers along with satellites for the Internet were added. Having ready access to these amenities benefited the children, families and ultimately the community as a whole. Everything from a hot meal to a modern education was provided, or at least available, at the daycare. A school here in Kansas City got the opportunity to Skype with the school in Brazil for an E-foreign exchange.

Admittedly, there were some selfish interests in doing all this. Danny’s goal was to create a stable community that could ensure such superb coffee would be there next year. Danny also changed how business was conducted by suggesting a multi-year contract agreement. With a three-year contract in place, Marcelo, the farmer, could invest in proper care of his crops even in bad years.

Danny altruistic journey has come full circle—from helping his school in Iowa to helping to build a school in Brazil. At The Roasterie we leap at the opportunity to help others. While we want to give back and improve the quality of life for all who interact with our company, we also want to make sure that such improvements aren’t just flashes in a philanthropic pan. And the best way to do that is to align our philanthropy with our own goals. By innovating in our operations, investing in human beings and helping communities we’re able to improve our own business.

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Industry Trends: Chill Out with Nitro

best strong coffee

Cold Brew Nitro Glass

The world of coffee is constantly changing and evolving. Cold brew, or toddy brewing, recently came into vogue as caffeine addicts struggled to down a 20-ounce piping hot latte in 97-degree weather with 84 percent humidity. Hello, Midwest summer!

The cool news – sorry, couldn’t help it – is that cold brew is as simple to make as iced tea and has a number of advantages over ‘regular’ coffee.

Instead of using a high temperature and a short amount of time, cold brew dramatically extends the brew time (up to 24 hours) in order to extract the coffee’s flavor and caffeine. The end result will be roughly 33 percent more caffeinated but roughly 66 percent less acidic.

Here’s why: hot water draws out any natural acidity or oil in a coffee bean, so using cold water extracts the flavors and the caffeine exclusively.

So why not just pour coffee over ice when you’re ready to chill out? The distinction between iced coffee and cold brew lies in the water temperature—iced coffee was brewed hot and then cooled whereas ‘cold brew’ was never introduced to hot water. Aside from giving baristas more jargon, there lies the dramatic difference in the process and end result.

But if the concept of drinking cold coffee is new to you … well, strap in. Even more recent than cold brewed coffee is The Roasterie’s cold brewed Nitro Coffee. Almost identical to Guinness on tap, Nitro is kegged and hooked up to a nitrogen gas tank. As the coffee is pulled out of the tap (yes, coffee on tap), it’s infused with nitrogen gas for a smooth finish and gentle effervescence.  Because this is cold brewed coffee, the benefits of lessened acidity and higher caffeine content still apply. The nitrogen adds a creaminess in both flavor and texture.

You’ll find our Nitro Coffee on tap at our cafes in Leawood, Brookside, Southwest Boulevard, JCCC, as well as at Children’s Mercy Park, Brown & Loe, Snowball in St. Joseph, and for the employees at both Rego and Hufft Projects. Watch this blog to learn when we’ll have it available in cans. You read that right: robust, smooth and lightly effervescent coffee in cans. You’ll want to start making room in your refrigerator now.

And of course, you can find cold brew java at all three Roasterie cafes. Although the cold brew is popular during warm weather, it still provides a refreshing choice year ‘round.


HOME BREW: Having a pitcher of cold, ready-to-go coffee sitting in your fridge not only makes hectic mornings easier, but also the extra jolt of caffeine might not hurt, either! Making cold brew coffee in your own kitchen is a breeze.

Grab 12 oz of coarsely ground coffee, two qts of cold water and a pitcher (make less if you’d prefer, just scale back the recipe proportionally). Pre-ground coffee will work fine; just try steeping for closer to 12 hours instead of 24. Add half of your coffee and wet the grounds evenly with half of your water. Repeat. Then, stick it in the fridge and then let it sit for 12-24 hours!

The only trick with cold brew is how to strain the coffee grounds from the cold brew—we recommend transferring the cold brew to a different container and filtering the grounds at this step. Cover the new container in a coffee filter or cheese cloth, or, use a French Press if you have one since the mesh filter in the press will strain the grounds for you. We’ve tried make-shift tea bags for our cold brew but it doesn’t extract flavor nearly as well.

One important caveat: Making cold brew might require some trial and error because your favorite bean or blend for brewed coffee might not work as well as a cold brew. Don’t worry—try our cold brew blend, which is made with this specific method in mind.

Purchase online or at the Leawood, Brookside or Plant cafes.

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Special Feature: India Temple Mountain

At the Roasterie we take great pride in buying, roasting, and selling the best beans the world has to offer. We also take a great pride in bringing extra special coffees to Kansas City and getting as many people to try them as possible. One of our newest offerings, the India Temple Mountain, is one such coffee.

Not long ago people in the specialty coffee world would think we are crazy for not only buying coffee from India… but referring to it as “extra special.” For many, many years India was just not producing specialty grade coffee due to a lack of knowledge around how to craft the product. Coffee plants can be very fickle and need just the right conditions to flourish and produce good coffee. Elevation, soil, and sunlight are all factors in what can make or break a coffee crop. It took a while but farmers in India have learned from the mistakes of their ancestors and are finally producing some truly exceptional crops.

While our very own ‘Bean Baron’, Danny O’Neill, was traveling this last year he had a chance to cup our India Temple Mountain and was immediately blown away by the bright, clean, and exciting cup. He knew he had to get this coffee to Kansas City no matter what it took; in this case it took buying the whole crop of the coffee. Now, you may be thinking this means we will have this coffee for a while… but you would be mistaken. We have moved through half our inventory in less than a month and a half and it looks like demand is only going to grow. I would recommend buying a bag (or five) now and giving them away as presents, birthday presents, or just to treat yourself. We nitrogen flush each bag which ensure peak freshness for 6 months.  Coffee crops can very year to year and you may not get a chance to try this coffee ever again.

The other thing Danny brought back with him was a ton of great photos. Check out the India Travel Photo Gallery to get an idea of the adventures that took place!

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20 Years of Research Proves Coffee Is More Than A Drink

Anyone who knows a coffee lover most likely knows that when offered a cup, there is only one option:  take it and savor every sip.  Coffee enthusiast are amongst the most passionate consumers in the world; and now they have even more reason to scream from the rooftop about the product they love so much.  A recently released study shows that coffee is indeed more than just a drink and includes 20 years of research to back it!


Read the full article here:

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The Other Side of Coffee – The Roasterie goes to Costa Rica (2015)


For the days of January 18th – January 24th, my coworkers and I were guests and companions on a true coffee exploration. We were flown to Costa Rica, where we visited multiple coffee farms across the country. Each farm was another classroom, offering lessons in how coffee is grown, harvested, processed and exported. As team members of The Roasterie, my companions and I were very familiar with how coffee is processed and roasted after its importation into the United States. However, now we had opportunity to see what happens in a coffee’s country of origin, and we made sure not to waste it.


The farmers were welcoming and encouraged a hands on experience from the very start. We used all of our senses to experience coffee on every level of production. We picked the cherries from the tree, tasted them, observed and attempted to assist as farmers delicately and efficiently sorted the quality cherries from the bad, and best of all, saw the inner workings of the coffee processes. We witnessed fully washed, semi-washed, and natural coffee processes. But what was truly irresistible at each farm were the honey processed coffees. Yellow, red and black; it was a surprise to see that each farm was producing coffee in very specialized ways.

Growing and Picking

During our multiple-hour bus rides through dream-like Costa Rican landscapes and culture-rich cities, something we became quick to recognize were the coffee crops. Imagine crops in Kansas, Iowa or Nebraska. Corn crops and wheat crops grow in planted rows for miles and miles on flat plains throughout the mid-west. Coffee trees are remarkably similar. Miles and miles of rows of shaded and unshaded coffee trees – down the slopes of mountains, sometimes nearly a mile above sea-level. Farmers and workers on these plantations will gather together in the open beds of trucks, drive around the winding curves of the roads engineered to the mountain’s edge. When they reach the farm, they will go out with baskets tied to their waist, and spend the day picking the best cherries from the trees.




In one of our trips to a farm in Tarrazu, we had a coffee picking competition in which we were instructed to pick our cherries quickly and efficiently, bust most important, selectively. The coffees should be a plum-purple, uniform color when picked. Green or bright red cherries should be left on the branch where dark purple or wrinkled, blackish cherries should be tossed as overripe.


From these sloping crops, the cherries are driven by truck to mills – sometimes owned by the farmers, sometimes not. Shortly after entering a farm or mill, we would often be confronted with what are referred to as “African Beds.” These beds would have a different set up each time. Sometimes in rows, sometimes in long, winding lines up the side of a mountain path, sometimes in bunks, sometimes covered in a tarp, sometimes in a tent, sometimes directly in the sun. These beds were being used to lay out natural and honey processed coffees.


One of my favorite mill and farm experiences was on the La Pastora farm, which exists at the highest altitude of any of the farms we visited – 6,000 feet above sea level, and produces fully washed, semi-washed, natural and honey processed coffees. The name of this farm may be familiar if you are a Roasterie Regular. One of our 2014 Reserve Coffees came from this farm, you would recognize it as our La Pastora Black Honey Processed coffee.

CherryMucilageRedHoneyIn a prior Pilot’s Blog update made on June 24th, 2014, we explained the honey processes, yellow, red and black. We explained what “honey” means and what kind of coffee these processes produce. This post can be found here. For just a short recap, coffee comes from a coffee cherry. When you break that cherry open, you find two seeds covered in the mucilage of the cherry. Mucilage is a gooey, sticky substance made up of natural sugars and alcohols within the cherry. Think of the gooey, translucent tissue surrounding gestating aliens in The X-Files. It’s just like that. No? You don’t want to think of it that way, because that’s disgusting, and Roasterie coffee is delicious? Well then, think of…HONEY! Mucilage is like honey, it is sticky and sweet and made up of sugars. (And who would want to buy a “Black Mucilage Processed” coffee? Black Honey Processed? SIGN US UP!)

Based on the moisture and sugar content of a crop, some seeds will be chosen to be Honey Processed, which can be broken down even further into Yellow, Red or Black. These coffees are de-pulped but not washed, so they are still covered in thick, sticky mucilage. BlackHoneyCoffee They are then laid out on beds, usually over a period of 5-8 days. The amount of sunlight the seeds receive, dictates whether the “honey” is yellow, red or black. Yellow receiving the most sunlight, where black receives the least. We spent a lot of time tasting coffee seeds in the midst of their honey process. The texture of the seed’s husks is weak and crunchy, and the surrounding mucilage tastes sweet and surprisingly similar to Honey Smacks Cereal.

The effect of these processes is a sweeter coffee, though that sweetness varies in its exact flavor profile. They will not necessarily of the rich, berry sweetness of a natural processed coffee, but will have a notably different flavor than a washed coffee.

It was interesting to see that every farm we visited was using these specialized Honey Processing methods on their coffee. After seeing the process up close, it will be exciting to watch the possible rising trend of Honey Processed coffee out of Costa Rica or perhaps globally. And for a Roasterie connoisseur, I would keep your eyes peeled for new Honey Processed and Costa Rican coffees in 2015…


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Life Saving Beans

With New Year’s resolutions finally upon us and promises of healthier living bouncing around our heads, it can be overwhelming with a seemingly endless stream of “experts” insisting that you have to cut out one delicious thing after another. You end up wondering what is left to enjoy? It is natural to consider the the health benefits of what we consume most on a daily basis. For a lot of us, coffee is absolutely an everyday beverage. There are many rumors about the adverse health effects of coffee but we suggest you grab a cup of job and take a look at some recent finding on the health benefits of coffee before you remove, in our opinion, the best part of the day.

1.) A study by Jiang X., Zhang D and Jiang W. in 2014, which looked at the effects of drinking two extra cups of coffee daily had on more than a million people, found a 12% decrease in diabetes risk for every additional two cups of coffee consumed.

2.) A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, which studied more than 229,000 men and 173,000 women ages 51-70, showed that the risk of dying from any cause was reduced by 6%, 10% and 12% for people who drank 1 cup per day, 2-3 cups per day, and 4-5 cups per day, respectively.

3.) A 2014 study of over 1.2 million participants showed that compared to non-coffee drinkers, people who average 1.5 cups per day saw a 11% reduction in cardiovascular disease risk and people who average 3.5 cups per day saw a 15% reduction.

4.) H. Qi and S. Li found in their study that coffee drinkers who consume 3 cups per day are 28% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.

Read more by clicking here

These health benefits are not just derived from caffeine intake but also the fact that coffee is rich in polyphenol antioxidants which have powerful disease-fighting properties, according to Dietitian, Lois Ferguson. Recent studies have shown that coffee contains four times the amount of antioxidants than green tea, which has long been considered a herbal remedy. Read more on The

So, if you are looking to fulfill your New Year’s resolutions and live a healthier lifestyle, shop The Roasterie and purchase some lifesaving beans.

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The Roasterie-Big Central Coffee Championships

The Roasterie has been involved in coffee competitions for over a decade. In 2003, we hosted the Midwest Regional Barista competition. Since that time, the competition has grown and is now known as the Big Central.

The Big Central is a three day event that hosts 75+ baristas from 16 states in the two competitions all vying for spots in the US Coffee Championships in February.

This year The Roasterie was represented in the Brewers Cup by our own Brookside Barista, Skylar Cowdry. Bean Hunter (Jon Ferguson)Bean Hunter Jon Ferguson and Professor Bean Simeon Bricker and I  were there to coach Skylar, compete,  and volunteer.

Barista competitors prepare 12 espresso based beverages (four espressos, four cappuccinos, and four signature beverages) in a 15 minute presentation. Scores are based on technical skills and sensory evaluation. Brewers Cup competitors first must compete in a compulsory round brewing 3 cups of a compulsory coffee. The Top 6 from the compulsory round move onto an open service round to compete using a coffee of their choosing, serving three cups to three judges in a 10 minute presentation. Brewers are judged on sensory evaluation and station maintenance.

Team Roasterie.  arrived on Thursday night to check into the hotel room and prepare for day one of competition. Friday came too early… Continue reading

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Brew Like a Barista

Brew Like a Barista

ManualBrewMethods1 (1)

We have a crew of really talented baristas at all three of our Roasterie Cafe locations. They will make any drink to order exactly the way you like it, and with educated skill. But what do these coffee connoisseurs use when they are in the comfort of their own homes? How do they prefer to make coffee for themselves and their friends when they don’t have to be professional? We asked! Here are some of our baristas’ top home-brewing recommendations… Continue reading

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#TheRoasterie Moments

In our expert opinion, the best moments in life are best shared over a cup of coffee, especially #TheRoasterie coffee! We love when you share your favorite caffeinated Instagram moments with us – keep taggin’ #TheRoasterie and you could be featured next time!

Here are the latest and greatest:


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The Roasterie Cafe Barista Spotlight: Skylar Cowdry

The Roasterie prides itself in providing exceptional air-roasted coffee to discerning coffee-lovers throughout Kansas City. Even more than that, we are proud of our team of baristas who go through grueling coffee education to learn how to brew the perfect cup of coffee in the most efficient ways.

This month we are excited to spotlight a very special member of the team, Skylar Cowdry. Skylar is a barista at our Brookside café. He is also a full time student, a versatile musician, a kind hearted member of the Kansas City community, and soon to be a Brewer’s Cup competitor. We recently sat down with Skylar to learn more about him and what led him to The Roasterie.

skylar Continue reading

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